The Mad River Barn Will Make You Happy

“Hotels make you happy” said Marianne, as she settled into her bed last weekend at The Inn at the Mad River Barn in Waitsfield, Vermont.  She might be right – at least, in a hotel like this one!DSC02884

The Mad River Barn is under new ownership, and they’ve lovingly restored this old inn, including accessibility in these areas:  guest room (sleeps three) and bath on the first floor, parking, pathways and front entrance, indoor dining area, outdoor patio and restaurant bathroom.DSC02873

The aesthetic is both modern and re-purposed.  The furniture lines are clean and the inn is uncluttered, and yet there is something interesting at every turn, from the old door shellacked and hung as art, to the wall signs made of brightly painted sprockets and the bathroom fixtures made of reclaimed pipe joints.  The interior designer, Joanne Palmisano, has two books in print, Salvage Secrets: Transforming Reclaimed Materials Into Design Concepts and Salvage Secrets Design and Decor, both of which are on sale at the front desk or might be available from your library (the first is available through my library).

DSC02899The halls, although they meet ADA standards, left only a little wiggle room for Marianne’s big electric chair, and I was nervous about marring the freshly-painted wood.  (We left not a trace, I’m happy to say.)   A smaller electric chair or a manual chair wouldn’t have an issue at all.

Breakfast was included in the very reasonable room rate of $140/per night, and I loved it that efforts were made to provide farm-fresh, healthy meal choices.    The inn offers dinner as well, a nice choice for families who want to minimize the number of times they get in and out of the car!  The dinner menu met a variety of diets, from the meat-eaters to half-size portions, kid menus, or filling salads.   Vermont has several breweries in hot demand right now, and Mad River Barn serves up some of the best.

My only regret is that the upstairs lounge area is not accessible, and it looks like a lot of fun  with oversized, cozy-looking chairs, a fireplace, game tables and big screen TV.   This is definitely a family-friendly inn, and I hear that plans are underway to create a dog-friendly abode on the property as well.DSC02919

The Mad River Valley is a great destination:

–  Waitsfield is a good base from which to access the many programs that Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports has to offer, both summer and winter.

– Fall foliage season is right around the corner and Vermont’s scenic by-ways include lots of leaf-peeping, quaint covered barns, and idyllic-looking sheep and cows grazing serenely.

– Vermont’s Festival of the Arts runs in Mad River Valley from August 1 through Labor Day, and the Valley Arts Foundation took the time to compile a program that clearly delineates which venues are wheelchair friendly (and kid-friendly too!).

– Check out the  Waitsfield Farmer’s Market on the green in Waitsfield on Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm, mid-May through mid-October.

– We loved the Hen of the Wood restaurant in Waterbury when we dined there a couple of years ago.  The Waterbury restaurant is not accessible but the newly-opened Hen of the Wood in Burlington IS accessible.  The only catch is that the new and accessible restaurant is in Burlington, about an hour away. DSC02926

What FaceBook Needs

George Baletsa of Newbury died suddenly, unexpectedly, on June 24th.  He was 45 years old and has a wife and three children who now start each day without him.  My sister-in-law, his neighbor, is grieving, for she knows the value of a good soul.  She tells me that George was unfailingly kind to her and to her son, who played often at his house with his boys, and she misses him.

Every day someone dies and someone who loves them grieves forever.  There are freak accidents, cruel attacks, devastating medical diagnoses.  The older we get, the more it happens.

Facebook (FB) has been around for a while now, and its users have aged too.  An International Business Times’ study showed that FB users between the ages of 13-24 are leaving or canceling their accounts, while there is an increase in the 30-something and  40-something demographics.  The over-55 age group shows the biggest increase of all.   FB is indeed getting older.

I think the “new” FB users are sharing more nuanced, more personal information than earlier users.  Yes, FB will remain a place to see pictures of your cousins’ children and grandchildren, your friend’s vacation photos, a hilarious YouTube clip.  But increasingly it is becoming a place to document progression of cancer treatments, to mark anniversaries of loss, and to reflect upon the death of someone we love.   How hard it must be to access a social networking site after a loss like that of the Baletsa family.  And yet, FB could be a powerful source of connection and comfort, if there was a way to break out of its current superficial construct.

The “like” option is not enough, my sister-in-law and I decided.  It just feels weird to “like” a painful or soul-bearing statement.   I said, “What FB needs is….” and we declared simultaneously:  an “I hear you” option!

Someone who loved George Baletsa could post: “George died a month ago tomorrow; it is so hard to believe.”

And she could know that she was heard and that she is not alone, with a simple “I hear you” ping.   Words, often, cannot take away the pain, but the simple knowledge that someone bears witness can soothe.

FB:  are you listening?



What’s The Fuss about Seasons 52?

Dined Monday night at Seasons 52 in Burlington, and I have to say, I don’t see what the buzz is about.

Yes, the flatbread is good.  It’s nice that the menu is seasonal.

It’s also really expensive for otherwise mediocre food.  I ordered the salmon;  I’ve had better;  same for the accompanying corn risotto.  My husband had the steak salad;  four small overcooked pieces of beef on a humongous mound of iceberg lettuce.  I happen to know that I could have had 5 glasses of wine for the price of the one that I had (because I love Mer Soleil and I know how much a bottle costs).   Marianne did give the lemonade two thumbs up, so that’s something.  I felt like I had entered a re-fashioned Red Fish or some other chain restaurant of that ilk, outfitted now for an older crowd with a higher budget.  Maybe it was the pop music playing (which certainly appealed to my 16-year-old), but it was incongruous for a restaurant presumably marketed to the 40+ crowd.

To top it off, it’s faux accessible.  Meaning that for a new restaurant, they’ve crossed some items off the list: accessible entrance, bathroom and some seating areas, ADA-parking spaces nearby.   But the tables are packed so tightly in the main dining room that it is an obstacle course to enter or leave.  (As witnessed by the very pregnant, very lovely woman who had to get back up – after just settling comfortably into her chair – so that Marianne could get by.)  The bar area, off to the right, is not accessible at all;  the tables are either high tops or are set onto platforms (so they are effectively high tops).

Seasons 52 Burlington feels like a mass-marketed chain restaurant with a lackluster, over-priced product and an uncomfortable space for a wheelchair-user.  I think we’ll spend our dining dollars elsewhere next time.



Anchorage, Alaska Is Surprisingly Accessible

IMG_2887Alaska is the home of the grizzly bear, avid fisher-folk, cruise-ship mavens, hipsters and artists, and the highly-caffeinated. It is not, in general, an easy state for a wheelchair-user to navigate, but Anchorage stands out as an oasis.  (In the summer, that is.)

I prefer big hotel chains for accessibility, because they tend to be more predictable. The downtown Hilton Anchorage was bleh and expensive but accessible. (I do, however, thoroughly applaud the usefulness of their website for wheelchair travelers.  If only all hotel websites were this descriptive!)

I would suggest staying downtown, as the sidewalks are wide, wheelchair-friendly, and there are many well-timed pedestrian walk lights (meaning that you can actually get across the street before a rented Jeep or truck with mounted gun-rack mows you down).

You can easily spend a day or two in Anchorage.  Here’s what I’d suggest:

– drink espresso (Kaladi Brothers is accessible and excellent) but skip Side Street Espresso (terrible latte and so-so egg burritos)
– eat the salted caramel ice cream at Fat Ptarmigan (their pizza establishment next door gets great reviews, and they’ve got locally brewed beer too) IMG_2911
– visit the Anchorage Museum (couldn’t peel my 13-year-old from the interactive science displays, had a fantastic meal at Muse in the museum, appreciated the multi-faceted display on Alaskan culture, was transfixed by the earthquake monitor and tsunami display on the second floor; GREAT exhibit on ocean trash, photo below)IMG_2899
– go on Saturday to the Anchorage Market and Festival (it’s accessible and you can find art, jewelry, crafts, clothing, food and more food).  Loved Octopus Ink‘s clothing and crafts (they have a shop and are represented at the Saturday market too — or you can buy online)
– motor or wheel on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (11 miles of views, although check on the status of the bridge before you go; if it’s still out, your trip on pavement will be considerably shorter)IMG_2916
– indulge your inner outdoor-enthusiast and go shopping at 6th Avenue Outfitters

From Anchorage, drive the Seward Highway for some breath-taking views and wheelchair-friendly pull-outs (some even have ADA port-a-potties).  National Geographic published a piece with suggested places to stop on the highway.

DSC_0088Anchorage and its surrounds provide an adventurous day or two (maybe three) if you’re a slow walker or wheelchair-user. Those long daylight hours of summer give you even more time to get around, and the abundance of espresso shops can only help keep you motoring along.